The Link

I studied Aikido this afternoon with a friend. He is a new to it, and has lots of questions. As we train, I realize that I do not have explicit knowledge of the answers to the questions he is asking. I have been led to them by years of practice and experimentation. Movements in martial arts are those movements that were originally left behind by those that survived wars. They come to us from the deep past, and are largely passed down from person to person. They are not really mine – I only channel them.

I can hold these techniques and movements for awhile, but only while I am alive. They are mainly for me to pass on. I am a vessel for these thoughts. I am the river to gather streams of thoughts and channel them to the great sea of infinite time and space.

I am not the first to think these thoughts, nor shall I be the last.

It is the Lunar New Year, and the Taiwanese believe the ancestors are close. They burn offerings of ghost money to comfort them, they set firecrackers to scare away the restless souls that still wander the earth. I am not afraid of ghosts, in fact I think it would be nice for me to meet the ancestors, and learn how better to use what I have been given.

We are all given a finite time in this world, though we don’t know how long. Today we are just a little closer to the end.

The knowledge of the ancestors comes to me in sensations, some learned, like en-trained reflexes in martial arts. These originated in battle, and have been preserved, refined, and transmitted from person to person in an unbroken chain. Some ancestral knowledge is instinctual – I crave bananas when I am low on potassium, for instance. I know this because in between the time I took my last blood test and saw the results, I ate a lot of bananas. They looked good on the fruit stand, so I bought a lot. When the results came, they showed me that I had been low on potassium. This instinctual knowledge has been passed down to us from organism to organism in an unbroken chain, reaching back through deep time. We are just the latest link.

A prayer to the ancestors while they are close: show us the Way, protect us as you would protect your Legacy, let us channel you in work and in play, remind us that life has just one source, and that we are all children of the common beginning. May all restless souls find a listening ear, and be able to rest in peace.

Talking to Strangers

On a train ride home today. Brown line in Taipei, meaning narrow cars where there’s just enough room for one person to stand between the seats that are facing each other. It was crowded. Evening rush. Blue seats are reserved for the elderly, the pregnant, and children. Green seats are for general seating. It’s crowded, so one young guy sat down in the priority seating. He gestured. “There’s a seat free.” I gestured to the man standing between me and the seat. “Will you sit?”

The man moved out of the way, and I sat.

The young guy who sat down first must have been in high school. “Someone asks us to move later, we could always apologize.”
“Or, we could just offer the seat if we see someone in need.” I offered.
“Yeah.” he said.

I got out my phone and started reading. (Retropia installments from the Archdruid Report blog.)

“If I find keys, I tell the police.” He said.
“Did you find keys today?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No, but if I find keys, I tell the police.”
“That’s good.” I nodded, and continued to read.

“If I find keys in a store, I tell the police. I tell the police.” He said.
“That works. But why not just tell someone who works at the store?”
“I tell the police.” He insisted.
“Yeah, that’ll work, too.” I nodded, and continued to read.

The train stopped, and the person sitting across from him stood up and got off. A woman who got on sat down.

“If I find a wallet, I tell the police.” He said, looking at her.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
He shook his head. “If I find a wallet, I tell the police.”
My eyes were down as I was reading, so I couldn’t see the woman’s facial expression, but could see her she get up, and walk toward the doors, standing in the area in between the doors.

“I think I scared her.” said the young man.
“Yeah, it looks like it.” I agreed.
“Hey, sorry.” He apologized to her. The woman didn’t acknowledge him. “I’m sorry.” He repeated, this time in Taiwanese, rather than Mandarin, to show his sincerity.

The train stopped at a station, some people got off and some people got on, confirming that the woman had stood up just to get away from him.

“You know, maybe you should just smile and nod.” I offered.
He nodded. I continued reading.

“Sometimes people are scared of me, but I would never do anything bad. I’m the sort of person who’d never do anything bad. Never. Never do anything bad.”Yeah. I said. “But people aren’t used to talking to strangers. Maybe you should just smile and nod.”
This seemed to make sense to him, and he nodded. “But if I find keys I tell the police. Tell the police. Doesn’t matter if I’m riding my bicycle.” At the next stop, the woman got off.
“Bicycle! Do you like bicycling?”
“Yes, and if I find keys, I tell the police.”
“That’s nice.” I continued reading.

The train arrived at my stop. “Well, hey. This is my stop. I’ll see you.”
“Bye.” he said.”Bye.” I said, and got off.

Intersection of Dreams

People come and go.
For love of music, we are here.
Tomorrow we go back to fight it out with the world.
Home gives us strength and love.
Let us shelter each other here for a song.
Simple in giving.
We give each other this dance.
From different places.
To different places.
Here now together at a beautiful and fragile intersection of dreams.

Taking Pulse

An police officer I met at martial arts practice told me this. He doesn’t like to arrest people for minor offenses, like driving without a license, “if I catch someone driving without a license, I’ll say, you can call someone who has a license, and I’ll wait here with you, and they can come here and drive you home, and I’ll let you off with a warning.”

He says he know some of these guys make 200 dollars a month, and if he were to write them up, they have to pay for the fine, they’d have to pay to get their car unimpounded, and they be in a lot worse a situation – like having to steal to get by.

They remember him, and they’re greatful. Then, some time later he’ll be going after a really bad guy, and he calls on his people for leads. And he’ll protect his sources. “They don’t need to know how I knew.”

I thought – this is a good cop. He knows the people he is charged with protecting, and knows when to use discretion.


Supporters of Donald Trump see themselves as reasonable people. They take instances of the extreme left, label it liberalism, put all liberals together there, and then say, that’s not who we are.

Liberals need to be careful that they are not doing the same thing with conservatives.

It’s time to stop name-calling, time to talk about issues and their effects. Time to remember democratic principles of non-violence for which Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Once summed up by my Psychology teacher Mark Cunningham has the One Asshole Rule: if the other guy is being an asshole, let there be only one asshole.

Native Tongue

A thought. I observe and experience frequent communication problems in Taiwan, compared to Japan or the US. They often manifest as someone asking a question and the person answering giving an answer that doesn’t match. Either the person asking hasn’t properly formulated the question, or the person answering hasn’t properly confirmed it.

Could it be because the current generation of people speaking Mandarin was raised by a generation who spoke Taiwanese natively? It’s as if Germany suddenly mandated that English was the official language, and everyone schooled and raised their kids in English, and even prohibited use of German in school, even on the playground. Some people would be able to speak good English; others – not so well. And many people would be frustrated by the act of talking, and try to take shortcuts.

Former president Lee Teng Hui (just two presidents ago) admits his Mandarin was so bad that he spoke with former First Lady Soong Mei Ling in English.

Maybe I need to assume everyone is a non-native speaker, and take conversations more slowly.